An internet connection can be the thing that separates a smarthome device from a dumbhome device. If the internet goes out at your place, what exactly happens to your smarthome devices? Do they turn into bricks, or are they still somewhat functional?

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The answer to that question is that it depends on the device. Some smarthome devices crap out and are completely useless when they can’t connect to the internet. However, some devices still work just fine without a connection, albeit without all of the nifty smarthome features enabled. Here’s what you should know.

Some Wi-Fi Cams Won’t Work At All

If there is ever a mighty downfall of cloud-based smarthome products, this will be why—some Wi-Fi cams are completely and utterly useless without an internet connection, and this includes arguably the most popular Wi-Fi cam on the market—the Nest Cam and other camera-enabled devices from Nest.

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When the Nest can’t connect to the Wi-Fi, it won’t let you do anything. You can’t even view past recordings.

Of course, other Wi-Fi cams handle this differently. For example, the Arlo Pro camera system can record video locally if you plug in a USB flash drive. It will continue to record to the cloud, but if the Wi-Fi ever goes down, it can fall back on the USB flash drive.

Philips Hue Lights Can Still Work Locally

As for smart lights, like Philips Hue, they’ll still work without an internet connection, just as long as you’re not trying to control them when you’re away from home. Hue uses a hub as the intermediary, which makes things a bit better if your internet goes down.

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If the internet stops working in your home, but the local Wi-Fi network still works, you’re not completely out of luck—you only lose the ability to control your lights from your phone when you’re not home. Everything else still works.

In other words, as long as the Hue Bridge hub is connected to your router, and your phone is connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network via that router, you’ll still be able to control your lights from your phone like normal, even if the internet is down.

Safety Devices Work but Are Dumbed Down

Whenever you have a smarthome device that controls a critical component of your home, it’s perfectly normal to wonder what exactly happens when the internet goes down.

The good news is that most critical devices, like smart thermostats, smart smoke alarms, and smart locks, will still work perfectly fine as a dumbed-down version when the internet goes down.

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So for example, your smart thermostat would work as a traditional thermostat. It would still be able to control the HVAC system and turn your heating and cooling on and off. The only difference is that all the features that make the thermostat “smart” would be temporarily unavailable until the internet comes back on. The same goes for smart smoke alarms and smart locks.

Voice Assistants Are Pretty Much Useless for Smarthome Control

Devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are great for controlling all of your smarthome devices, but while you might still be able to control everything with the Wi-Fi down, controlling them from your voice assistant is a no-go if there’s no internet.

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Some things still work, though, like alarms and timers. So if you set the alarm to wake you up in the morning and the Wi-Fi goes out overnight, your voice assistant will still wake you up at the right time.

However, when it comes to controlling a smarthome device with your voice or just asking simple things like the weather or traffic, your voice assistant won’t be able to do any of that without an internet connection.

Profile Photo for Craig Lloyd Craig Lloyd
Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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